Schrader bounces back in time for BMS

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   Ken Schrader and the No. 49 BAM Racing team could hardly be accused of roaring into Bristol a week and a half ago. They had just missed the last two Winston Cup races at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen, which snapped a streak of 579 consecutive starts for Schrader.
   That all changed on Sunday at Michigan, where the team not only made the race, but posted a much-needed eighth-place finish.
   "We're looking forward to getting back to Bristol," said Schrader, who was a winner in a couple of non-Winston Cup races earlier this season. "We've had some tough times of late but we'll have confidence when we get back here.
   "We ran well there in the spring and there is no reason we shouldn't be good this weekend. Our short track program has really come along nicely and we're looking for good things."
   His car will have highly unique paint scheme that might even outglow the lights of the speedway itself. The team has secured sponsorship from SEM Products/Color Horizons for their Dodge team in the Sharpie 500 and the paint company will use this as a showcase.
   The car itself will sport a design and coloring unlike anything seen before in major league stock car racing. It is a translucent mandarin candy which goes from light to dark from the top to the bottom of the car, all on top of a silver base.
   Schrader has been outstanding in the short track races this season. He qualified third in the first race at Bristol this season, but a cut tire sent him into the wall. At Martinsville, Va., he qualified fourth and finished 10th.
   Schrader, 48, still isn't the biggest fan of BMS, but he sees the appeal to spectators.
   "Bristol is a good spectacle for NASCAR fans," said Schrader, owner of four Winston Cup wins. "It's as close as we'll race one another outside of a restrictor plate race all year. Bristol is that way because it's a high banked, one groove race track. The thing is, just one preferred line through the corners really backs up traffic.
   Could the track be fixed to make for more side-by-side racing. Schrader, who owns a dirt track in Peavley, Mo. as well as driving thinks there is a solution.
   "Some people have asked is there is anyway to change Bristol in order to add another racing groove," said Schrader. "I believe they could grind the track at Bristol much like they did at Dover.
   "It seemed to help Dover and it should help Bristol. But, I don't know if they ever will or not. They're still going pack the stands and that's what makes Bristol exciting.
   Schrader is noted for his versatility. He has won races in all types of racing machines from open wheel to dirt Late Models to stock cars. He sees some Bristol as a challenge.
   "Bristol can bring out the best and, definitely, the worst in drivers," said Schrader, the 1985 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. "It's hot, you're running 500 laps nose to tail with 42 other drivers, there's little room to pass, and you're just down right frustrated. Then suddenly you get dumped in the wall. That'll get you yelling at somebody."
   Drivers feel they can be more aggressive here where the pace is around 120 miles per hour than larger tracks where speeds are in excess of 190.
   "It's different at Bristol," said Schrader, referring to the driver's mentality. "It's a slow track and you can dump someone without hurting them, not like at other tracks where there is room to pass and if you get into someone, it's dismissed as one of those racing deals.
   "At Bristol, if someone dumps you it was most likely to gain position. However, you can gather it up and get to him, then dump him back. You have to leave your emotions at the gate on the way in, and pick them back up on the way out."
   His strong qualifying run and the way he started the race makes Schrader optimistic there will be no repeat of his 37th place finish in March's Food City 500.
   "We had a great car there in the spring," said Schrader. "I could really get through the corners fast and pick up the throttle early. We were running in the top 10 for most of the race until we had a tire go down. That was bad because we were going to have a great finish."